Disney’s “Captain America: Civil War” may have pitted two of Marvel’s most popular characters against each other, but coming out on top is the Burbank studio whose latest blockbuster had a stellar debut this week.
The film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, pulled in an estimated $181.8 million in the U.S. and Canada, the fifth highest domestic opening in industry history. Though the film did not beat analyst expectations of over $200 million, it did exceed the studio’s more modest projections of $175 million.
“We are happy to have the kind of results we’re having,” said Dave Hollis, the studio’s distribution chief. “The team at Marvel Studios has been on a consistent roll of delivering the highest quality of films.”
If the number of ticket sales wasn’t indicative enough, audiences and critic responses alike have been overwhelmingly positive -- something Warner Bros.’ “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” didn’t achieve. Moviegoers gave it an A grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore, while 91% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes rated it favorably.
"[Marvel Studios] has increasingly found a way to stretch who these movies are for," Hollis said. “That’s really the secret to being able to have a film do these type of numbers.”
“Civil War’s” performance was also projected to be massive given news from Fandango that pre-sales for the $250-million film outpaced every other superhero movie in the online ticket seller’s 16-year history. It bested “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” with many showings around the country selling out days ahead of the premiere.
The marketing of the picture also assisted in its appeal to audiences. Though technically a “Captain America” movie, “Civil War” was marketed like the first two “Avengers” films, by emphasizing the return of beloved characters. Besides Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ title character, the new picture features Marvel heroes such as Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Don Cheadle’s War Machine and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. It also introduces Tom Holland as Spider-Man.
“Captain America” also performed well on Imax screens -- some of the film’s key scenes were filmed with Imax cameras -- which accounted for $16 million of its debut. The weekend is a second-best for a Disney-Marvel Imax release, after “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” $18.2 million last year. Seven of the weekend’s top 10 domestic venues were IMAX locations.
“Civil War’s” performance is welcome news for the entire industry as it kicks off the summer blockbuster months, which often are a huge moneymaker for studios. The massive debut is believed to be representative of a shift in audience attendance that is expected to benefit other pictures in the coming weeks.
Regardless, the industry faces an uphill battle to replicate last summer’s box-office success. Theatrical releases generated $4.48 billion from May 1 through Labor Day last year in the U.S. and Canada. Analysts have remained doubtful that Hollywood can top that tally this summer.
Coming in third this week was, on the weekend after which it’s named, Open Road’s “Mother’s Day.” The romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Kate Hudson and Loni Love grossed an estimated $9 million in its second weekend. The film has pulled in $20.7 million to date.
Universal’s “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” landed in fourth place in its third week with $3.6 million. The part-prequel, part-spinoff has grossed a total of $40.4 million.
Holding down the rear in the fifth spot was Warner Bros. and New Line’s “Keanu.” Starring comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the picture added another $3.1 million for a domestic gross of $15.1 million.
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9:35 a.m.: This story has been updated with studio comments. This post originally published at 9:12 a.m.